Painting Flames on Model and Toy Cars
I am going to attempt to explain how I painted flames on the Hot Rod Deuce Coupe Freaky Ford I posted in the toymakingplans.com forum. The process is the same no matter what size or body style is used. I sometimes tend to get a little wordy with my explanations. I hope it doesn’t distract from the main objective.
I have been painting flames on Plastic car models for over 20 years. I have an example shown below on a 1/25th scale plastic model. Once I got the technique down, it was just a matter of drawing what I want and transferring it onto the model. Sounds simple, right?
At the bottom of this article I have attached a PDF file to this post for anyone who would like to copy it to their computer for reference.
I always make sure the model is finished painted and as smooth as possible before starting. I usually have a clear coat over the finished color the flames will be going over. This is so the contact paper will stick to it better, preventing paint from getting under the contact paper.
When I start a flame project on a model, the very first thing I do is draw two outlines of the model on a piece of paper (one outline for each right and left sides). These can be just opposite sides of the same drawing as I have shown here
Toymakingplans.com has made this step a little easier because you already have the outline at the proper size in the plans, all you have to do is print another copy to draw on. From that you know what size to make the flames and how you can fit them in the space you have. I have drawn in where the tires will be for reference.
Now you start drawing (sketching) the flames. If you have any obstacles that might affect the flames such as door handles or, as in the case of the freaky ford, pipes coming out the side that you want to go around, you need to make sure they are on the outline drawing also. There are a lot of inspirational pictures on the internet. If you search for “custom car flames images”, you will see there are a lot of images of all different types of flames for cars. Pick the type of flame you like and try drawing it on your outline. Did I mention you need to do all the drawing in pencil? If it doesn’t look like what you want on the first try, simply erase it and try again. It might take several tries to get it looking like you want. The freaky ford I put at the beginning of this post is not really exactly like I should have done it but it came out okay.
Once the flames look like you want them to, make the lines more crisp and solid by carefully drawing over the lines, making them a little heavier.
The next step is going to be to put the flames onto something that can be adhered to the model after it is cut out. I use smooth (not textured) self-adhesive (Contact) shelf paper. It is inexpensive and a roll lasts a long time. You can adhere it any way you want though.
You can use carbon paper, if you have it for the next steps but I usually just use the drawing in pencil since the pencil “lead” will transfer to the contact paper.
Turn over the drawing you made and make sure you can see it from the other side when it is on the contact paper. Position it where you want it onto the outline for the correct side. It is best to tape down the outline and the drawing to prevent either of them moving while transferring the images. Draw the image onto the contact paper. Flip the drawing over and draw it again in reverse for the other side of the car onto a different part of the contact paper. Now the real fun begins.
Using a sharp craft knife, cut out the flames drawn on the contact paper. At this point, try not to cut through the contact paper backing, just the vinyl. Go slow and make the cuts as precise as you can.
After all the cutting is done, remove the part of the drawing you want the paint in. In this case it’s the flame itself. Some might want to keep the background as the flame color and paint around the flames for a different look. It is completely up to the individual. I will show both ways on the same model here so you can see what I mean.
Put some tape over the cutout after removing the image. Use a low tack tape such as painters tape so it can be easily removed when you need to. This is so when you take the flames off the contact paper backing, the template will keep its shape while putting it onto the model. This step usually isn’t necessary if you are painting around the flames. Simply place the cutout where you want it on the model after removing the backing.
Carefully remove the contact paper backing and adhere the contact paper onto the model in the proper place. Remove the tape used to keep the templates shape.
Tape model up to prevent any overspray getting on it where you don’t want paint while painting the flames.
After the contact paper is adhered to both sides of the model and it is taped to prevent overspray, simply paint it. You can do this with a spray can, airbrush, even hand brush if you wish.
After the paint has dried some (about 20 minutes is usually enough), remove the template carefully, making sure you pull it away from the model so paint doesn’t smear. If you let the paint dry completely, you might have to score around the template to prevent the paint coming off.
There are many techniques you can use when painting, depending on the look you are going for in the finished product. You will see on the model I put at the beginning of this post, the red flames were outlined in yellow (which actually came out looking like orange). I will show that technique another time perhaps. As usual, if you are not comfortable with lining the flames, that’s okay too.
I usually use regular craft acrylics (or other water based paints) on my models with the rustoleum 2X gloss clear coat over it but any paint can be used. Again, the craft paints are inexpensive and go a long way when thinned for airbrushing. Another advantage of using craft acrylics, is that if there is a minor mistake on the airbrushing, it can be easily removed with a little water and cotton swab.
I have attached a PDF file to this post for anyone who would like to copy it to their computer for reference.
I hope this helps those who are interested in it. Give me a shout if you have any questions.